HB 786 - Department of Human Services, Maryland Department of Health, and Department of Education - Easing Access to Family Support Programs

Position: Support

Committee: House Appropriations Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in support of House Bill 786. The Catholic Conference represents the public policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, including the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

House Bill 786 would promote easy access to family support programs administered through the state. It encourages Maryland departments and agencies to streamline applications and engineer efficiency throughout several family support programs. The bill would increase access to family support programs such as child care subsidies, medical assistance programs, free and reduced meal programs for students, as well as other safety net programs that address energy costs, disability assistance and food insecurity.

The Church places a priority on alleviating poverty, promoting assistance for those in need and meeting those needs through programs and social services in partnership with our state and local governments. Additionally, child care access for low-income parents is a substantial tool in easing income-related hardships, as the availability and affordability of child care services allows parents to provide for their families while they go to work. The Child Care Subsidy Program, which this bill would promote, aims to remove barriers to child care access.

Another important function of this bill is to promote access to food security programs. With regard to the issue of food insecurity, Pope Francis has stated, “I invite you to make space in your heart for this emergency of respecting the God-given rights of everyone to have access to adequate food” and has invited “all of the institutions of the world, the Church, each of us, as one single human family, to give a voice to all of those who suffer silently from hunger, so that this voice becomes a roar which can shake the world.” (Message for The Campaign Against Global Hunger, December 2013)

The Catholic Church is the second largest social service provider outside of our Maryland State Government and thus our communities understand firsthand the value of the programs House Bill 786 would promote access to. Therefore, we respectfully request this committee to vote favorably on House Bill 786.